Mexico aims to fast track Russian Sputnik vaccine authorization after seeing data

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker fills a syringe with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine as she prepares to vaccinate a Russian Army service member at a clinic in the city of Rostov-On-Don, Russia December 22, 2020. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican health authorities will make a decision this week on whether to authorize Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine after getting access to data on it, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Tuesday.

Lopez-Gatell said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had instructed authorities to "proceed speedily" with the process.

"The file has been under review since the weekend by (health regulator) COFEPRIS and very soon there will be a decision regarding the authorization for emergency use, as occurred with the other two vaccines," he said at a regular government news conference.

He later said COFEPRIS was expected to make a decision this week on authorization for emergency use in Mexico.

Lopez-Gatell, Mexico's coronavirus czar, said on Monday evening that Mexico was considering acquiring 24 million doses of Sputnik V.

Mexico has already authorized the vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and AstraZeneca Plc.

Lopez-Gatell said he met with Russian officials to discuss the vaccine during a trip last week to Argentina, whose government has started rolling out Sputnik V to health workers.

Mexican officials had access to "the entire scientific and technical file" on the Russian vaccine while in Argentina, including results of its Phase III clinical trials. Previously, Mexico had difficulty getting information about Sputnik V, prompting safety concerns, Lopez-Gatell added.

"It's a vaccine that has a capacity and efficacy similar to those of the other vaccines that have been authorized," he said.

While the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which has funded Sputnik V, has deals with multiple countries to supply millions of doses, only about 1.5 million doses of the vaccine have rolled out domestically.

The RDIF has said it plans to rely on manufacturing partners in China, India, South Korea and elsewhere to fulfill its major international supply deals.

A shipment of almost 440,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine arrived in Mexico on Tuesday, the largest consignment yet to reach the country and a key step toward the government’s goal of concluding the vaccination of health workers this month.

Mexico could in February begin receiving batches of a vaccine made by Chinese company CanSino Biologics, Lopez-Gatell said.

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Raul Cortes; additional reporting by Polina Inanova in Moscow and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood)

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